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It’s a no-brainer to say companies sometimes make bad decisions and exercise poor judgements that destroy or compromise reputation. These are rarely just ‘PR’ disasters. More often public and media outcry is a signal of deeper problems – perhaps of inadequate governance and accountability, of vested interests and biased boards, of token stakeholder engagement and perhaps even of wilful blindness when it comes to risk management and genuine understanding of intangible assets.

Earlier this year, a CEO survey found 90% of interviewees regard data about their reputation and brand as critical when it comes to making decisions about the long-term success and durability of their businesses. Interviewees gave similar import to financial forecasting and customer insight. But while 40% of CEOs are satisfied with the comprehensiveness of financial data, this falls to 24% when it comes to data about reputation and customer insight. Data about risk, employee views, industry performance and supply chain also fell short in the estimation of the interviewed CEOs.

What is going on here? We know we have more data than ever before, but it is not (yet) delivering to business leaders against business-critical decisions. In the case of reputation, the challenge has partly been about the need for technology to evolve to deliver more than just media monitoring and ‘happy hashtag’ social media marketing stats. Polecat is all about addressing this challenge. Today it is possible to interrogate global conversation for specific reputation concerns, according to audience and calibrated for business impact and risk in real time.

Indeed, the same reputation data also intrinsically delivers metrics and actionable insights for non-financial / intangible assets, employee views, industry performance and supply chain intelligence. In short, as we improve analytics to interrogate the universe of unstructured data about reputation online and in social media, we also enhance actionable intelligence across a range of business functions where CEOs see a data shortfall.

But it isn’t just down to technology to provide a solution. Companies also need to think outside of traditional functions and silos to see how data about global discourse can be filtered and triangulated to provide competitive intelligence across their value chain – from brand to supplier.

Companies that ‘get’ reputation management know it is about how they fundamentally engage with the societies and stakeholder groups upon which their businesses and social capital depend. They know that bad decisions can destroy reputation – their most precious intangible asset – and come with a price tag of as much as 30% of their value. And with loss of reputation comes a greater drag on the business: loss of confidence in products and solutions; more regulatory, investor and civil society scrutiny; and, the forfeiting of precious management time and attention spent grappling with issues and crises rather than maximising value and innovating for the future.

As technology evolves to deliver meaningful and actionable reputation data, the opportunity for CEOs and businesses is to re-imagine how such data can be democratised across the enterprise to enhance all the drivers of reputation and value – from governance through to product innovation, and from local markets to an entire global supply chain.

To this end, Polecat has a reputation maturity model which guides our work with customers across three key steps:

  1. Building the FOUNDATION for Actionable Intelligence: We work with our customers, often initially within corporate affairs and sustainability functions, to ensure the data they receive through our platform and products are tightly tuned to their external landscape of influencers and stakeholders. We ensure the depth and breadth of insights we deliver will help drive decisions about the actions and words necessary to win hearts and minds locally and globally, and – critically – that the reputational impact is clear, measurable and meaningful.
  2. EMBEDDING and Democratising Data Across the Enterprise: Over time, other departments - such as risk management, investor relations, public affairs, supply chain, new market entry, innovation and others – see the value to their activities of having real-time insight to how their specific stakeholders are engaging about them, their issues and sector. Exposure across employees and functions to the same highly tuned data helps join-up thinking to deliver action plans and impacts that are greater than the sum of their parts. We run carefully designed workshops to help different internal stakeholders interrogate and frame collaborations on how to leverage data and intelligence across functions to enhance performance and impact.
  3. Enabling and Inspiring LEADERSHIP: Enterprise-wide data-rich intelligence delivers a real-time neural network that joins up the parts of a corporate body politic to listen, interrogate and manage opportunity and risk in a far more unified and dynamic way than ever before. Companies are enabled to anticipate unknown unknowns, manage risks (upside and downside) and seize white space in ways that confidently drive leadership. competitive advantage and value. Reputation metrics get embedded in KPIs and tied to strategic decisions and investments.

We are privileged to work with some of the world’s largest enterprises and across multiple sectors, and with some for many years. On each journey, we initially see companies relieved to be at last able to ground their decisions in real-time objective data about what people care about. They express tangible relief in the ability to move away from the need to rely on solitary experts, one-off primary research, practitioner intuition and inevitably inadequate mindsets when it comes to appraising society’s expectations across such diverse portfolios of concern and opportunity. Efficiencies are improved, money saved and value proven. Over time governance structures, policies, targets and accountabilities marry to support measurable reputation ambitions and leadership – all delivered on the basis of comprehensive data and insight available at a click.

Polecat Intelligence provides global reputation intelligence for companies around the world.